Border Residents Fear Message on Mysterious Billboards

Angela Kocherga, KHOU (Houston), May 22, 2014

El Paso police are investigating two mysterious billboards that appeared just off I-10, each with a mannequin hanging from a noose. .

“It’s not an advertisement,” said Mike Mons, regional manager for Lamar Outdoor advertising.

The first vandalized billboard off I-10 had Plata o Plomo in large black letters which translates into silver or lead. It is usually a warning targeting police or government officials in Mexico. The warning: work with a cartel and take a bribe or get a bullet.

The hanging mannequin was dressed in a suit and tie.

“This symbol has historically been used by Mexican drug cartels to threaten or intimidate Mexican citizens, business owners and government officials; however, we have never experienced this in El Paso,” said police in a statement released to media.

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During their morning commute motorists spotted a second billboard off I-10 with a hanging mannequin dressed in jeans.

“Dying for drugs” was painted on an existing DEA billboard that offered a $5 million reward capture of drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.

Vandals cut through a chain link fence and climbed about 30 feet to reach the billboard’s ladder and then had to climb even higher to write the message and hang the mannequin.

Investigators suspect it might be the work of an activist group questioning the war on drugs. Similar hanging mannequins were placed on billboards in Las Vegas in 2012 with the messages “Dying for work” and “I hope you’re happy Wall Street.”

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